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Śrauta (Devanagari श्रौत) traditions are conservative ritualistic traditions of historical Vedic religion in Hinduism, based on the body of Śruti literature. They persist in a few places in India today although constituting a clear minority within Hinduism. Śrauta is a vrddhi derivation of Śruti, just like Smarta is the vrddhi derivation of Smrti. The most famous Srauta community are the Nambudiri Brahmins of Kerala.


Presently alive shrauta traditions are:


The Śrauta tradition as per the Vedas lays more emphasis on practice of the rituals rather than having a set of beliefs. The practices of the Śrauta tradition mainly consist of Yajnas. The Yajnas are divided into two categories, namely: nitya-karma and kaamya karma. Nitya-karma refers to those Yajnas that have to be performed daily or as per occasion. Kaamya-karma refers to those Yajnas performed with a particular purpose such as wishing for rain, cattle, overlordship or for a son (e.g. Putrakameshti).



A shrauta yajna being performed.

The Vedas describe 400 Yajnas[1].

A (late) subset of them are the Pancha Mahayajnas (Five Great Yajnas, see Taittiriya Aranyaka 2.10) namely:

  • Devayajña- consists of offering āhutis to devas
  • Pitṛyajña- consists of offering libations[2] to ancestors or pitṛs
  • Bhūtayajña- consists of offering bali or food to certain spirits
  • Manuṣyayajña- consists of feeding guests
  • Brahmayajña- consists of daily repetition of reciting the Vedas.


The pantheon in the Śrauta tradition consist of various gods and goddesses, known as Devas who represent natural forces or deified social concepts. For instance, the deva Agni has one aspect as the flame. (In recent, idiosyncratic interpretation, this flame symbolises the psychological power associated with Agni namely the power of will and Agni can be called God-will). [3].

Since Shrauta focuses on conservative Vedic rituals, the pantheon corresponds to the Rigvedic deities more than to that of mainstream (Puranic) Hinduism. Among the most prominent deities are Agni, Indra, and Soma, as well as the All-gods (Viśve devāḥ), Ashvin, Ushas, Surya, Savitar, Parjanya, Rudra or Sarasvati (cf. Chamakam 6):

Oral tradition

The word Śrauta is derived from the word Śruti meaning that which is heard. The Śrauta tradition of transmitting the Vedas consisted solely of oral tradition from the Guru (teacher) to the Shishya (student). Vedic scholars have made use of manuscripts in order to teach the Vedas to their students at least since the Middle Ages, and of printed books since the advent of Western philology in British India, but the use of writing has always been clearly secondary to the commitment of the texts to memory.

Methods of recitation

The oral tradition of the Vedas consists of several ways of recitation. The students are first taught the Samhita Paatha. Here, paatha means a way of recitation. The other methods of chanting include: "pada", "krama", "jata", "mala", "sikha", "rekha", "dhvaja","danda", "ratha", "ghana" etc.

Some Veda reciters are called "ghanapaathins"; they have learnt the recitation of the texts up to the advanced stage called "ghana". "Paathin" means one who has learnt the "paatha". Ghanapaathins recite a mantra in different ways, with individual words repeated back and forth. Similarly, in the other methods of chanting like krama, jata, sikha, mala, and so on. The chief purpose of such methods is to ensure that even not even a syllable of a mantra is altered to the slightest extent. The words are braided together, so to speak, and recited back and forth[4].

Present situation of Śrauta tradition

Today the Śrauta tradition is most prominent in Southern India, with communities in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, but also in some pockets of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, a few other Indian states and in Nepal; the best known of these groups are the Nambudiri of Kerala, whose traditions were notably documented by Frits Staal. The Smarta tradition of Hinduism (mostly Advaita Vedanta) is more prevalent than the Shrauta one. Among others the Nambudiri brahmanas continued, in their relative isolation, to preserve and practice the ancient tradition of the Vedic Śrauta ritual.[5]

The Aupasana [6]is performed in many houses. However the Śrauta tradition emphasises the Vedic form of the Agnihotra (whose performer is called Agnihotri), New and Full Moon sacrifices and a few more complex rituals, including the Agnistoma (Soma) sacrifice .

Prominent Śrauti scholars and communities

Recent Śrauta yaagas

Some recent major Śrauta Yajñas:


  1. Grhasthashrama
  2. Libations at
  3. Essentials of Krishna and Shukla Yajurveda- RL Kashyap; SAKSI, Bangalore, Karnataka ISBN 8179940322
  4. Methods of Chanting
  5. Staal, Frits (1988). Universals: studies in Indian logic and linguistics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-76999-2. 
  6. Aupasana
  7. Veda at
  8. On a Vedic quest
  13. Somayaagam at
  14. Nakshatreshti Homam
  15. Rare Vedic Yaaga
  • Essentials of Krishna and Shukla Yajurveda- RL Kashyap; SAKSI, Bangalore, Karnataka

Further reading

  • Staal, J. F. 1961. Nambudiri Veda Recitation. 's Gravenhage.
  • Staal, J. F. 1979a. "The meaninglessness of ritual", Numen 26, 2-22.
  • Staal, J. F. 1979b "Ritual syntax", in Nagatomi et al., pp. 119-142.
  • Staal, J. F. 1982. The Science of Ritual. Poona.
  • Staal, J. F. 1983. Agni: The Vedic ritual of the fire altar. 2 vols. Berkeley.
  • Staal, J. F. 1990. Jouer avec le feu. Pratique et théorie du ritual védique. Paris.
  • Dumont, P.-E. 1927. L'Aśvamedha: Description du sacrifice solonnel du cheval dans le culte védique d'après les textes du Yajurveda blanc. Paris.
  • Dumont, P.-E. 1939. L'Agnihotra: Description de l'agnihotra dans le rituel védique d'après les Śrautasūtras. Baltimore.
  • Tsuji, N. [alias N.Fukushima]. 1952. On the relation between Brahmanas and Śrautasūtras, [Burahumana to shurauta sūtora to no kanken]. Repr. 1982, 1-247, Engl. summary, pp.181-247. Tokyo.

See also

External links

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